Love was in the air at the Baranof Hotel ballroom Tuesday evening after the older adult advocacy organization, AARP Alaska, held a Valentine’s Day-themed event, We Heart Seniors, which was hosted to celebrate Juneau’s older adult population along with the city’s recent commitment to AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, a program that works to reduce barriers for older adults residents and aid communities to become more “age-friendly.”
The commitment makes Juneau the second city in Alaska to join the network, after Anchorage, and is the 678th nationwide. According to Patrick Curtis, community outreach director for AARP Alaska, Juneau’s commitment is a vital step for the city as it prepares for an influx in its older population.
“Cities and communities need to prepare for an aging population,” he said. “We value and want what’s best for the 50 plus.”
According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, it’s estimated that Juneau’s population of residents age 75 and up is expected to grow by 37% by 2025 and another 36% by 2030.
Dr. Emily Kane, CBJ Commission on Aging chair who was a part of the effort to join the network, said Juneau’s designation is a “honor, responsibility and commitment” that will require a city-wide collaboration.
She said the three major goals she’d like to see the city accomplish in the next five years included creating a senior pickleball court, developing a robust “volunteer network hub” for older adults and working with city and local developers to encourage proactive age-friendly thinking when developing new infrastructure.
Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale said the need for making Juneau a more age-friendly community is critical and is something that will have a direct impact on her and her family.
“It’s immediate for me, my mom is 84 and I am 61 — a lot of this is extremely real for me and I think it’s something extremely pertinent and makes a lot of sense,” she said. “It’s really important that we be thinking about making sure things like sidewalks are clear and people have good exercise possibilities and housing.”
Hale pointed to city actions being taken currently to aid Juneau’s older population such as the Assembly’s recent move to vote in support of a resolution for the municipal-owned hospital’s proposed acquisition of long-term care facility Wildflower Court, which hospital officials say could help ease the increasing demand and provide a step toward fulfilling the gap in local hospice and home care.
“Our population is aging and I think it’s important to acknowledge that,” she said.
I think the big thing is we need to be conscious of the decisions we make and what the ramifications are for both young and old people.”
She also said she hopes to see the city take action to assist facilities similar to Riverview Senior Living, which in 2020, received a $2 million grant from the city and tax abatements. Once open, it will be able to offer housing to up to 99 residents.
The facility is slated to have its grand opening on June 3 of this year, according to Daniel Powell, executive director of Riverview Senior Living.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.